What is the Mormon Religion?
When people ask me if I’m Mormon, I usually want to say something like, “Well, depending on how you’re using the term, my answer will either be ‘Yes,’ or ‘Yes, with a few clarifications.’” The reason for that somewhat strange and unconventional response is I have met many people throughout the years that have said, “Oh, so you’re Mormon and you believe . . .” and then they go on to describe some bizarre rite that I don’t believe in and neither does any other member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is in full fellowship.
By the way, that name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the complete name of the church that is usually referred to when people talk about the “Mormon Religion.” Members of the said Church believe that the name was given by revelation from Jesus Christ over 170 years ago. The Church was established in 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. The Church is called by this name because an ancient prophet once wrote,
“And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.” (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:8)
But if the name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then why is it sometimes called “the Mormon Religion”? Good question. It is because members of the Church believe that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible” (Book of Mormon: Introduction). The book is considered scripture “comparable to the Bible” because it testifies, like the Bible, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that there is “no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:17). Hence, while “Mormons” is a much shorter name than “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” these members prefer to be called by the latter, since it is more accurate, and since they do not consider themselves followers of Mormon, but of Jesus Christ. Mormon, by the way, was a prophet and historian living in 400 A.D. He compiled the sacred writings and teachings of previous prophets that lived in ancient America (similar to how the New Testament is made up of sacred writings by prophets and apostles and was compiled in the first century A.D.).
But we still haven’t really answered the above question, what is the Mormon Religion? If “the Mormon Religion” is a name that some people call The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of a belief in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, then we can answer the question “What is the Mormon Religion?” by taking a moment to discuss the Book of Mormon, especially since Joseph Smith, founder of the said Church and translator of the Book of Mormon, once called the Book of Mormon “the keystone of our religion.”
Ezra Taft Benson, a President of the Church, says that a keystone “is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles” (Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4). Just as an arch will collapse if the keystone is removed, so the Church crumbles without the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is tangible evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, as the Lord Himself said in a modern revelation, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).
Jeffery R. Holland, a modern Apostle, has said that the Book of Mormon “should be considered the most remarkable and important religious text to be revealed since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago. Indeed, in its role of restoring plain and precious biblical truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths about Jesus Christ and preparing the way for the complete restoration of his gospel and the triumphant day of his millennial return, the Book of Mormon may be considered the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world.” (Christ and the New Covenant, 9-10)
This is what Mormons—members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe. They believe in Jesus Christ. “The fundamental principle of our religion,” Joseph Smith wrote, “are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, volume 3:30). Jesus Christ died for our sins, and because he lives we too shall live. If we keep the commandments and endure to the end, we “shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).
I testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is, as the subtitle reads, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” With that book and with the Bible, I add my own personal testimony, that God indeed loves His children. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth as “An off’ring in the sinner’s stead” (“O Thou, Before the World Began,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 189). May each of us come to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent” (John 17:3) is my prayer.